Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Micro-conflict: A Quick Way to Pump Up Your Paragraphs



Happy Wednesday, my writing friends,

 Nothing new and exciting about conflict. We've heard how important layering tension throughout our stories is. But, I’m not talking about just any old conflict, but something called micro-conflict. Basically it’s the idea of injecting conflict into every sentence. Well, at least every paragraph.

Does it seem impossible? I tried it, and it really gave life to otherwise slow, bland scenes.

I first found this concept on Camy Tang’s blog, StorySinsei. I’ll read you her example.  

Before tension is added:
Wow, she was having lunch with Dr. Devon Knightley. How cool!

“Are you sure this restaurant is okay with you?” Devon peered at her over the top of his menu.
“Yes, of course.”

After tension is added:
Lunch had so not been a good idea.

Aside from the fact Naomi couldn’t scrub Jessica’s waxen face from the backs of her eyelids, Aunt Becca had embarrassed her worse than when she’d crashed Naomi’s eight-grade sleepover.
“Are you sure this restaurant is okay with you?” Devon peered at her over the top of his menu with wary eyes.
“Yes, of course. Why wouldn’t it be?”

I’m sure you can see the huge difference.

So how do we do this? I go through my manuscript, paragraph by paragraph, hunting down blah-ness and asking, “How can I inject more tension?”

Here are some suggestions of elements to add:

Offensiveness, embarrassment, confusion,  misunderstanding, mispronounces or forgets a name, interruptions, sarcasm, cynicism, self deprecation, guilt, fear, ambition. Your character does something odd, can’t finish a simple goal, can’t finish a sentence, has a snarky, rude, or too sweet, tone of voice, is disappointed, can’t stop obsessing about something in her past …

Try it! Then share how it went. I’d love to hear.

God bless and happy writing,